Will Your Marriage Last?


Relationship advice is always out there. Sometimes I click on the headlines, sometimes not. But for some reason, I did click on a recent Atlantic article and what it had to say about marriage stuck with me.

Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages…”

3 in 10? That means that 7 of your currently married friends are miserable right now. Wow, that stat seriously sucks. Most people get so caught up planning for the wedding, that they totally forget about what comes after; marriage. So how do you make sure we end up in the “3 group” after you get married? 

Researchers in the article say that when they observed couples, they found a few consistent traits that either pointed to happy marriages or miserable ones. From the data they gathered, they broke couples into two categories: Masters (happily together after 6 years of marriage) and Disasters (broken up or chronically unhappy in the marriage).  So now it’s time to get real and assess. Does your relationship have any of these positive or negative traits and are you a Master or Disaster?

The Master

The positive traits are so simple: Kindness & Generosity. Research shows that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction in a marriage. Masters regularly practiced kindness and generosity in a variety of ways. They showed genuine interest in what their partner discusses, regardless of how significant or insignificant the subject matter. Masters responded to their partners needs. They scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for.

“When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.”

Questions: Here are a few questions to answer honestly to determine if you practice kindness and generosity. How often do you…

Listen full-heartedly and congratulate your partner when he shares good news

Show a genuine interest in your partner’s joys

Actively listen when your partner is sharing a story

Buy small gifts for your partner

Give each other back rubs, foot rubs or practice other small acts of physical generosity

The Disaster

So what are those evil traits you ask? Why they are Contempt, Criticism and Hostility of course. When looking at traits that destroy relationships, contempt ranks highly. As people criticize their partner, they miss roughly 50% of the positive things that their partner is doing and see negativity, even when it’s not really there. Disasters are constantly scanning their partner and the environment for mistakes or what their partner is doing wrong. They deliberately ignore their partner and show minimal interest in what their partner is discussing or doing. Disasters do not address their partners needs.

“People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.”

Wow, did you catch that? Contempt and being critical of your partner will not only damage your relationship, but also literally may make your partner sick! Sounds like the sage old advice of, “If you don’t having anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all” might be valid here.

Questions: Okay, so moment of truth. Honestly answer these questions. How often do you…

Scan your partner for what he is doing wrong

Criticize your partner

Give your partner the cold shoulder

Deliberately ignore or respond minimally to your partner

Throw “spears” at your partner during a fight (Examples: What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom! You’re always late!)

Think that when your partner does something that bugs you that he is deliberately trying to annoy you (he left the toilet seat up just to piss me off!)

Focus on the negative aspects of good news

Listen half-heartedly when your partner tells a story

Moment of Truth: Are you a Master or Disaster?

Think about the questions. Are you more of a Master or Disaster? If you’re a Master, congrats and keep it up. Masters tend to think of kindness as a muscle that can grow stronger with exercise and effort. If both of you continue the hard work, the pay off is a happier marriage and more chances of staying together.

Did you identify more as a Disaster? Don’t worry, all is not lost! You can use the examples here and in the article to identify areas where you can improve. Here are some immediate ideas to work on:

Start flexing and working those kindness and generosity muscles.

When you’re in a fight with your partner, express how you feel, but avoid throwing hurtful “spears.”

If your partner tells you a story, put down your phone, look at him, and genuinely listen. Ask questions and focus on the positives.

Remember to tell him what he does right and what you appreciate about him everyday.

Doing these things regularly will bring you closer. Share this article with your partner and see what changes you might be willing to make together as a team so you can morph into Masters. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Ultimately, you and your partner will feel loved.

The author sums it up nicely in the closing paragraph of the article:

“There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.”


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Click here to read the full article at the Atlantic.com:


 Photo by Tomasz Wagner via flickr